Part of the appeal of superheroes is that they are aspirational figures, people with exceptional skills and moral codes. This is especially true of DC Comics characters developed in the Golden and Silver Ages. However, as audiences became more demanding, superheroes began to face more significant challenges, and sometimes they failed to rise to the occasion.
As characters like Superman and Batman developed beyond their 2-dimensional personalities, they were confronted with contemporary moral dilemmas and suffered the same indecision that their readers probably would. Today, the most iconic characters in DC’s pantheon of superheroes have several mistakes under their belt, and in some cases, they’re pretty hard to forgive.
10 Hal Jordan Destroyed The Green Lantern Corps
Hal Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest Green Lantern, having saved the Universe multiple times and implemented positive changes to the Green Lantern Corps. However, Hal also single-handedly destroyed the Corps and attempted to undo reality itself during the Zero-Hour crossover event.
Hal Jordan’s downfall was driven by the destruction of his hometown and his guilt after Hal murdered his nemesis, Sinestro. DC later revealed that Hal was under the spell of a fear-based entity known as Parallax, giving them a lazy loophole, it’s hard to believe the Corps would actually reinstate him.
9 Batman Enlisted An Unstable Youth In His War On Crime
Batman has committed a long list of disturbing errors that earned him the title of “Dark Knight.” However, even by Bruce Wayne’s standards, enlisting young boys to join his war on crime, and face gunfire while wearing bright clothes is incredibly messed up. Batman’s biggest mistake had to be recruiting Jason Todd, who eventually met a gruesome end at the hands of the Joker.
Not only was Jason a minor in Bruce’s care, he was also clearly unstable and should have never become a Robin in the first place. The harsh truth is that Batman was so desperate to fill the void in his life left by Dick Grayson that he hastily adopted Jason Todd and placed him in a deadly and traumatic environment.
8 Wally West Committed Manslaughter Then Covered It Up
It’s important for characters to have flaws, but these mistakes have to be grounded in the reality of the story and the character’s personality. DC’s Heroes in Crisis limited series squandered a great premise with a twist ending that it didn’t earn. While recovering from a traumatic battle, Wally West inadvertently killed the other patients at a superhero rehab facility.
DC then revealed that a future version of Wally had been manipulating the past in order to “atone for his crime” before giving himself up. Understandably, these actions continue to hurt the Scarlet Speedster’s reputation but Jeremy Adams’ current run on The Flash has gone a long way toward rehabilitating his image.
7 Zatanna Has An Disturbing Penchant For Erasing Memories
Zatanna Zatara is one of the greatest magicians in the DC Universe, and it’s frankly absurd that the character has yet to receive a comic book run worthy of her iconic status. Zatanna also has a history of mind-wiping her opponents, which makes her more than a little creepy.
In the Bronze Age, Zatanna infamously erased the Secret Society of Super-Villains’ memories after they discovered the secret identities of the Justice League. Then, during the divisive Identity Crisis miniseries, she also brainwashed Doctor Light after he attacked Sue Dibny. Then, she mind-wiped Batman to cover her tracks.
6 John Stewart Destroyed An Entire Planet
In his early appearances, Green Lantern John Stewart’s personality was virtually indistinguishable from characters like Black Lightning’s, Luke Cage’s, and The Falcon’s. They all fit into a narrow archetype of the fast-talking, overconfident Black man who is always ranting about the injustices of white society. Even in that context, Stewart was particularly impulsive.
As a result of his overconfident antics, John Stewart accidentally destroyed the planet Xanshi during the Cosmic Odyssey miniseries. This event motivated Jon to become more responsible, and he eventually received a characterization that felt more believable for and architect and former US Marine.
5 The Flash Killed His Arch Nemesis
During the Silver Age, DC Comics created a new continuity in its primary reality, Earth-1. This era was kickstarted by Barry Allen, the most iconic Flash, and his death in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover would mark its end. Barry’s swan song was a massive arc that began with him losing his first wife Iris Allen at the hands of the Reverse Flash.
When Thawne threatened to murder Barry’s next fiancé, the Flash snapped and killed his foe. This led to an exceptionally grim storyline called the Trial of Barry Allen. Barry redeemed himself when he died to save the multiverse and he was finally resurrected during the events of Final Crisis 23 years later.
4 Green Arrow Cheated on Black Canary
Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) and Dinah Lance II (Black Canary) have one of the most iconic superhero romances in comics. As often happens when creators try to keep a romance running for a long time, their relationship has hit its fair share of bumps along the way.
The most significant problem Arrow and Canary faced may be the time that Ollie cheated on Dinah while they were engaged to be married. Green Arrow has always been a flawed hero, but this time his behavior was exceptionally boorish, especially since he dealt with his guilt by ignoring his fiancé until Dinah finally broke up with him.
3 John Constantine Constantly Betrays His Friends
It’s impossible to pick just one fatal mistake for John Constantine, DC’s magical con artist. The character’s 300+ issue run under DC’s Vertigo imprint is a vast collection of bad, often immoral decisions. In particular, Constantine has a tendency to betray those who put their trust in him.
In the very first issue of Hellblazer, Constantine misled a gullible friend into becoming a human sacrifice for a horde of demons. In later issues, he manipulated an angel into being kicked out of heaven and toyed with the lives of children. At one point Constantine even created a duplicate version of himself to be taken to Hell and tortured in his place. Talk about self-destructive behavior.
2 Superman Let A Suspicious Jor-El Take His Son Away
During the DC Rebirth era, a version of Jor-El calling himself Mister Oz had survived the destruction of Krypton became the Man of Steel’s foil. When Bendis took over the Superman books he wrote a storyline where Jor-El took Jon Kent on a space trip in order to help him master his heritage and abilities.
Unfortunately, Mister Oz was a borderline supervillain and even an optimistic hero like Superman would have to be mind-controlled to leave him alone with his son. Clearly, Superman’s uncharacteristic behavior was contrived so that Jon Kent could be aged up. Given the trauma Jon suffered during that trip, it’s clearly one of Superman’s worst decisions.
1 Wonder Woman Publicly Executed Maxwell Lord
Wonder Woman was conceived as a champion of peace who solved conflicts through de-escalation. Over time, this characterization has been tweaked, and Diana is often depicted carrying swords and otherwise facing foes violently.
The newer, more aggressive Wonder Woman really made her mark during the Superman Sacrifice crossover, when Diana executed Maxwell Lord to stop the JLA’s liaison from controlling Superman’s mind. The murder was secretly televised and eroded the public’s trust in the JLA, even though Wonder Woman’s actions saved the world from a rampaging Superman.
NEXT: 10 Ways The Justice League Went Too Far
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